Running Terms for Newbie Runners

31 Aug

When I first started running, I genuinely thought it was as easy as putting one foot in front of the other. And, for the most part, it is. However, once I really started getting into the sport and spending more time at running groups and in running stores (two things I highly recommend for newbie runners), I heard all of these crazy terms being tossed around. Sometimes it sounded like people were speaking a whole different language! (Fartleks, anyone? Tell me that is not one wacky word!) Not wanting to seem uncool (yes, sometimes I still care about sounding “cool”…you know you do too…) or like I had no idea what was going on, I would stand there and smile, pretending I was totally “in the know” like them.

Little by little I learned more. And yes, I finally figured out what a fartlek was. And now I love them.

That’s right, I fartlek all the time. Tell me that doesn’t make you giggle…at least a little? (Oh, come on! Is this thing ON!?) 🙂

I know there are a lot of newbie runners who find themselves in the same predicament that I once was. So, here are a few of my favorite and most helpful running terms. Hopefully it will help some of those running store conversations start making sense!

Fartlek means “speed play” in Swedish. Fartleks are a form of interval training/repeats that allows the body to vary the intensity and speed of your run exercises. The benefit to this is that your body shifts between aerobic and anaerobic stress, aiding in fat burn and helping decrease overall pace. The main difference between fartleks and traditional repeat workouts is that these are traditionally less structured, with the runner varying speed and/or intensity as he or she wishes.

The concept of negative splits is simple. This just means that you ran the second half of a race faster than the first half. This is very beneficial for maintaining good pace and can help reduce overall race time.

“Hitting the wall” is one of the most awful feelings a runner can experience. This typically occurs in distance races where all of the muscle’s glycogen levels have been used up and the body starts giving into fatigue. For me, I liken the feeling of hitting the wall to running on broken legs. Mentally, I am moving my legs at a regular pace. In reality, I look down and see the wonkiest running legs and bad form EVER. THAT is hitting the wall. This can be avoided with proper hydration, electrolyte replacement and fueling (food) before and during the race.

Hitting the wall = NO BUENO.

Overpronation is the excessive inward rolling of the foot while running. This can prevent normal toe-off pushes and, if not accounted for with proper running shoes, can cause a whole host of injuries…especially in the knees. The opposite of overpronation is supination. This is where the foot rolls outwards on impact. This condition can also be corrected with appropriate running shoes or orthopaedic insoles/supports. In addition, there are strength training exercises that can be done to help control and correct either problem.

Left Foot

DNS stands for “Did Not Start” and DNF stands for “Did Not Finish.” Neither acronym makes a happy runner when shown on a listing of official race results. You can read a little bit more about DNS and my first ever DNF in this post.

Athena and Clydesdale race divisions are a bit newer concept and are still not found in all races. The “Athena” division (or sometimes called the “Filly” division) is a racing division for women over a certain weight. For most races with this division, the weight range is any female over 150 pounds. The Clydesdale race division is a similar concept for men, with the weight range typically beginning at 200 pounds. A lot of people mistakenly think that heavier runners don’t make as fierce of competitors. You can read more about my opinion on them here.

Not this kind of Clydesdale, silly!

Your “chip time” for a race is basically your net racing time. On official results, it may not be quite the same time listed for your gun time (if your race has that). To get your chip time, a race timing system must be utilized. The timing system calculates the time from when you actually start the race (typically by crossing a starting mat) to when you actually finish a race (by crossing another mat at the finish). Large races which feature waves of runners typically use chip times to place finishers. This technology allows runners to get in pace groups for a race and not have to fight their way to the front of the line in order to get an accurate finishing time.

So, there you go! I’ll do future posts with more terms, but these should get you started.

Now get out there and start fartleking, negative splitting, and getting that overpronation under control! Happy running!

13 Responses to “Running Terms for Newbie Runners”

  1. Nice, informative post (as per usual). Good job!

  2. I’m a clydesdale but I don’t like Budweiser beer – I’m a very conflicted runner.

    Also, “bonking” means something COMPLETELY different to those of us from Commonwealth countries… though excessive bonking can lead to hitting the wall.

  3. Jeff at 5:04 PM #

    I think bonking and “hitting the wall’ are two different things. Bonking is from glycogen deplection, but “the wall” is more of a mental thing. Your legs are tired but not completely depleted. You can break through “the wall”, but a bonk requires immediate nutrition in order to recover.

  4. Thanks for this! I’m glad I knew a few of the terms so I don’t feel as clueless as I thought I was! 🙂

  5. Ann at 8:26 AM #

    I LOVED all of these tips and I posted the link on my blog this morning!!! Such good suggestions and information for new runners!!!!

  6. Hmmm… Anything heavier than a Clydesdale? Thanks for the terms – especially the bonking. I read about this one a few times but never knew what it meant.

  7. Thanks for this post!! Based on last week’s #runchat I really needed this!!

  8. Leslie at 10:22 PM #

    Thank you for telling me about this post!!! 😉


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